Pope joins imam in calls for peace ahead of UN Security Council vote

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Pope Francis and a prominent Sunni imam issued pleas for peace as the UN Security Council met on Wednesday to discuss the importance of “human brotherhood” and condemn hatreds that fuel conflict.

The pope, who is in hospital recuperating from abdominal surgery, sent a statement saying a Third World War is unfolding “piecemeal” and that with the potentially catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons “the time is come to say a resounding ‘no’ to war.โ€

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the millennial seat of Sunni learning in Cairo, told a virtual briefing that human brotherhood was the key to world peace, a point he and the Pope had argued in a joint document published in 2019.

The UAE has chosen the importance of human brotherhood in bringing peace as the centerpiece of its council presidency this month. After appeals from the Pope and Grand Imam and speeches from the council, members passed a resolution recognizing that hate speech, racism, xenophobia, intolerance, gender discrimination and acts of extremism “can contribute to the outbreak, escalation and recurrence of conflicts”.

The resolution, co-sponsored by the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, urges all countries and organizations to condemn these acts and work to prevent them. It passed unanimously even though some of the 15 council members have been accused of some of the same actions they condemn.

UAE Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh told The Associated Press after the vote that it was a “historic” resolution that brings together for the first time previous Council resolutions dealing in different ways with the hate speech, racism, incitement and extremism. She said it promotes tolerance, equality, coexistence and dialogue.

Pope Francis lamented that the world is stepping back from the dream of the founding of the United Nations in 1945 on the ashes of two world wars that countries would move towards a more stable peace and “at last become a family of nations”.

Instead, he said, the world is witnessing “the rise of myopic, extremist, spiteful and aggressive nationalisms that have sparked conflicts that are not only anachronistic and outdated, but even more violent.”

The pope warned of the dangers of the arms race, which he said was driven by a desire to profit from arms sales.

“It takes more courage to give up easy profits to keep the peace than to sell ever more sophisticated and powerful weapons,” he said.

And he said the potential for nuclear disaster means it’s time to seek a lasting peace – not based on “the precarious balance of deterrence” but on “the brotherhood that binds us together”.

Francis went further than any pope before him in saying that not only the use but the mere possession of atomic weapons is immoral.

Previously, the Catholic Church had maintained for three decades that nuclear deterrence could be morally acceptable as long as it was used for mutual and verifiable nuclear disarmament. The Holy See, however, saw that the doctrine of deterrence essentially resulted in a nuclear status quo, with the collapse of arms control treaties, leading to Francis’ change in church teaching.

Al-Tayeb said his intention in addressing the council was to urge an end to senseless wars. He cited Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Yemen, and the need for the Council to recognize an independent Palestinian state after 75 years.

Without naming either Russia or Ukraine, he said the war unfolding on Europe’s eastern borders has sown terror and “anxiety that it could set humanity back to a primitive era”.

The Grand Imam said the mission pursued by Al-Azhar and the Roman Catholic Church in the 2019 document on human brotherhood for world peace must be pursued by political leaders.

“Our gathering today is not a luxury but a necessity, dictated by concern for the future of humanity,” Al-Tayeb said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the pope and grand imam’s statement “a model of compassion and human solidarity” and urged countries and peoples around the world “to unite as one human family” and to forge “an alliance of peace, rooted in the values โ€‹โ€‹of human brotherhood.”


Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield contributed to this report from Rome.

Leave a Comment